A 42-year-old man’s family has alleged that he died due to starvation in a village in Jharkhand’s Bokaro district even as district authorities claimed it was due to “prolonged illness”, ANI reported on Sunday. The news came after the state government last week claimed in the Assembly that there were no reports of “hunger deaths”.

The man, identified as Bhukhal Ghasi, reportedly did not have a ration card or an Ayushman card. His wife, Rekha Devi, claimed that the family of seven people, including two sons and three daughters, had not eaten for four days.

However, Bokaro’s District Commissioner Mukesh Kumar said Ghasi was “anaemic and under doctor’s observation”. “He used to work in Bengaluru and had returned six months ago after falling ill,” he added.

Kumar said the entire family suffers from anaemia, and that the block development officer has been asked to provide benefits under the Bhimrao Ambedkar Awas Yojana for widows. “His wife is in serious anaemic condition, she will be given treatment on government fund,” Kumar added. “Complete body profile test of the entire family will be done.”

Last week, state’s Food and Supply Minister Rameshwar Oraon had responded to Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) MLA Binod Singh question in the Assembly, saying that reports of starvation deaths were incorrect, reported The New Indian Express.

The Opposition has come down hard on the Hemant Soren-led state government. “When the JMM [Jharkhand Mukti Morcha] and Congress were in Opposition, they regularly alleged that dozens of people had died of hunger under the Raghubar Das government and did politics over it, BJP’s state unit spokesperson Pratul Shahdeo told Hindustan Times. “Now they have admitted that they used to speak a lie then.”

CPI(ML) leader Singh said the state administration needed to take note of the problems that brought them to power. He also called for a review of the state’s food security policy and take the required corrective measures.

After being alerted to the report of the starvation death on Twitter, Soren tweeted: “The guilty will not go unpunished.” He also claimed that the matter was being investigated, and asked the Bokaro district collector to take immediate steps to provide relief to the family, and ensure that ration cards were provided to those who need it.

In response to Soren’s tweet, the district collector said a team had met Ghasi’s family members. “Along with this, the additional chief secretary also took stock of the case,” he tweeted. “The administration is in constant touch with the victim’s family and all possible assistance is being given to them.”

According to some estimates, 23 deaths due to starvation and non-availability of subsidised food grains were reported in Jharkhand between 2015 and 2019. One of the cases Scroll.in reported on was that of an 11-year-old girl in Simdega district who died of starvation in October 2017, months after her family’s ration card was cancelled because it was not linked to their Aadhaar number. Last June, the state government directed the Latehar administration to exhume the body of a 65-year-old man for autopsy following allegations that he starved to death.